Visual Arts

Balancing Vulnerabilities and Strength

The gallery of Joan B. Mirviss is where you will discover striking new works of Japanese clay art. On view this fall Mirviss presents the dazzling work of two artists, the talented Kishi Eiko (b 1948) and Ogata Kamio (b 1949), who is not as yet well-known in this country. That is bound to change as both artists’ sculptures are now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art as well as other major museums here and overseas.

Since opening her gallery some 40 years ago, Mirviss has introduced the American public to modern and contemporary Japanese ceramic art. She consistently seeks out artists who demonstrate complex harmonies and a mastery of materials long associated with traditional Asian art. Yet her exhibitions, especially the current show, break all the barriers. These are ceramics that sustain the vitality of venerable Japanese traditions, but they exist in their own mythic realm.

Black and white photo of sculpture by Kishi Eiko
Kishi Eiko (b.1948). Compilation of Recollected Images
no.6, Shigaraki stoneware with colored-chamotte and
colored-clay inlays, 30 1/2 x 28 1/2 x 6 3/4 in. Photograph
by Nagata Yō. Image courtesy of Joan B Mirviss LTD.

Kishi Eiko, who has won awards in both Japan and Europe, is one of the foremost artists for contemporary Japanese clay sculpture. She lives in Kyoto where she says she is inspired by the ancient city’s tranquility and peace. Her work is just the opposite. It is dynamic and impossibly complex. She builds each piece based on a maquette, a scale model of how she will shape and balance her multislab sculpture which is meticulously formed, scored, carved, and inlaid with small applications of colored clays. Each work has the surface complexity of the finest needlework delicately “stitched” in the clay.

Ogata Kamio was born in Hokkaido, the most northern of Japan’s main islands. It is known for hot springs and ski lifts. Ogata, a self-taught artist, didn’t even begin to work with clay until his early thirties. It is remarkable that he was drawn to the ancient Chinese technique of “neriage,” a complex process of working with clay so that it has streaks or veins of color resembling marble. Ogata’s painstaking technique is to layer hundreds of paper-thin strata of gradated hand-colored clay to create a striated linear surface pattern. On some of his forms, the surfaces are pleated and carved, often on the diagonal. Because his palette is subdued — delicate shades of teal, powder blue, gray, and white— the optical effect is like flowing water, expanding, quivering, creating vessels of uncommon beauty.

Color photo of stoneward by Ogata Kamio
Ogata Kamio (b.1949). Lunar Landing, 2017, marbleized
(neriage) stoneware with transparent matte glaze,
10 1/8 x 10 7/8 x 7 in. Photograph by Inoue Kōji. Image
courtesy of Joan B Mirviss LTD.

Joan B Mirviss Ltd.
39 East 78th Street, Suite 401
New York, NY 10075

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